UQx TOURISMx TOUR_021 Tourism in protected areas

UQx TOURISMx TOUR_021 Tourism in protected areas


DRIML: Protected natural environments, including
national parks, marine parks and World Heritage areas are incredibly attractive settings for
tourism. Tourism can contribute to their protection
by increasing awareness and support from visitors. Tourism can also be an economic argument for
conservation. Research at The University of Queensland has
identified that tourists make a significant economic contribution to regions around national
parks, providing jobs and a contribution to the state’s gross domestic product. But there is a catch: too much tourism or
inappropriate tourism can have negative impacts that not only damage the environments we want
to protect, but can also ruin the tourism experience. The challenge is to plan and manage tourism
appropriately to minimise negative impacts so that tourism is sustainable in the long
term in these special places. Fortunately the managers of protected areas
along with the tourism industry are finding solutions to this challenge; here are three
key principles for planning and managing tourism in protected areas. The first principle is environment centred
planning, that is, to plan and manage the underlying resource for ongoing environmental
sustainability, identifying where and what type of tourism is appropriate. Tourism should only be introduced if this
first principle can be met. Second, involve the tourism industry in developing
guidelines and management systems for infrastructure and operations that are innovative and sensitive
to the setting. Third, continually monitor for impacts and
be flexible and adaptable to minimise any negative tourism impacts. A good example of the first principle of putting
the environment first in planning is the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest
coral reef system, stretching for 2300 km along the Queensland coast. It is a World Heritage Area and multiple use
Marine Park – including conservation, commercial and recreational fishing, tourism, and shipping. Tourism is the most significant economic activity
in the Marine Park. In 2004, a major planning exercise based on
ecologically representative areas was completed. 70 different habitats, or bioregions, in the
Great Barrier Reef were identified and mapped. Over 21,000 stakeholders were consulted in
the planning. The entire Great Barrier Reef was zoned for
different uses. This map shows a section of the Great Barrier
Reef. Human access is restricted in the preservation
zone in pink. And the orange scientific research zone. The Marine National Park green zone is equivalent
to a terrestrial national park and allows tourism, which is look but don’t take. While the yellow conservation zone allows
some limited recreational fishing. The blue zones allow more activities including
managed commercial fishing. Within the zoning process, locations that
would be suitable and available for different types of tourism were identified, mainly in
the green and yellow zones. Tourist operator Peter Gash explains how the
Great Barrier Reef zoning process, and declaration of ‘green’ no take zones have enhanced
fish populations around his ecotourism resort on Lady Elliot Island. GASH: The Marine Park Authority, the Great
Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, have put together a system of zones and zoning to protect
it in different ways to permit certain things such as fishing and snorkelling and diving
and tourism. And Lady Elliot is very fortunate in that
one of the things that we worked with the Marine Park Authority back in 2004 2005, we
got declared a ‘green zone’, which is total protection: no fishing, no spearing, no taking. It was always a beautiful place in the water. When we first came here it wasn’t a ‘green
zone’ and wasn’t protected. We could take people fishing and it happened. The people would come out here, they would
go fishing, they would come back. People would come in and go spearing. So when I first snorkelled here, there was
no big fish. They’d been hooked or speared or whatever. Or maybe they ran away because they knew it
was a dangerous place, whatever. They weren’t here. You found very few big fish in the 80s and
even the early 90s. In 2004 it got declared a ‘green zone’. Well, we’re now 12 years into it and it’s
unbelievable out there. The big fish are everywhere. And it just proves without a doubt that declaring
it a ‘green zone’ and protecting it makes a lot of sense. DRIML: Our second principle is to ensure that
any infrastructure and operations are environmentally sustainable and innovative. Scientific information is important as a basis
for sound operating guidelines. But in addition, experience has shown that
tourism operators are the people who are out there in the sensitive environment every day,
observing what is happening. Operators have the incentive to protect the
resource they use and have been the real innovators of ways to protect the environment. For example in the Great Barrier Reef, operators
have developed system of floats for snorkelers to hold onto so they don’t stand on the coral. Some tourism operators who are passionate
about the environment in which they operate are always looking for new ways to operate
sustainably. Many operators become accredited through associations
such as Ecotourism Australia and follow guidelines to operate in a sustainable manner Shane O’Reilly operates a resort next to
a National Park in the World Heritage listed rainforests of South East Queensland. Here he talks about management actions they
take and about requirements for holding advanced ecotourism certification. O’REILLY: I suppose again that’s in two sets. The back of house stuff, the way we handle
sewerage, for example, we a few years ago we spent a million dollars on an A+ sewerage
plant, and that water that comes out of that sewerage plan, you can actually drink if you
really want to give it a go. I think those type of things are important
and recycling and that type of thing. But probably more important is the other side
where you’re educating people, your guests as well as daytrippers as to how they learn
about a little brown bird, which they walk past and not look at but they might get told
a story about that logrunner and how it fits into the bigger scheme of things and how its
existence actually is important to the wider scheme or national park. I think with tourism certification in there
there’s a, I remember we did our first one. We didn’t really have to change or do anything
much because we were generally doing all the things that tick the boxes. What you find you’ve got to do is you’ve got
to measure it. And that’s probably something that we were
never very good at because we just did it and we didn’t every bother measuring. But measuring things like landfill, for instance,
and tracking that energy use per guest night. It’s helpful I suppose to make sure you’re
not slipping on the wrong side of the ledger. But that’s something I think that’s all I
had to do that was new. Basically when it came to using water and
having dual flush bathrooms and retarders in all the taps, well we already had all that
stuff. We didn’t have to change anything when we
went on to, got advanced ecotourism. DRIML: The third principle is to monitor and
adapt. We have heard how individual accredited ecotourism
operators monitor indicators such as waste and energy use and report on their operations
regularly. For a protected area as a whole, it is important
to monitor and identify any negative impacts that may be occurring due to tourism operations,
or for other reasons including external impacts such as climate change. If problems are identified, it is essential
to adapt use to try to minimise or prevent environmental damage. The format of adaptive management has been
adopted for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park using the management effectiveness cycle. Every 5 years, the Great Barrier Reef Outlook
Report is produced based on extensive research and monitoring, to examine the Great Barrier
Reef’s health, pressures and likely future. Notably, the reef tourism industry has not
shown any significant negative environmental impacts, to date. Planning for the future is then based on the
results of monitoring and research. The current Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability
Plan includes using the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s management
effectiveness cycle, with the steps of: Context – understand the system through research
and monitoring via the Outlook Report Planning -plan for the long term Inputs – fund the plan’s actions Process -involve stakeholders in management Outputs – implement actions of the plan Outcomes – evaluate outcomes and go back into review and planning again Dr Fergus Molloy of the Great Barrier Reef
Marine Park Authority [GBRMPA] explains the approach being taken for the Great Barrier
Reef to ensure adaptive management for the long term. MOLLOY: Look, as I said it’s a learning from doing process We are all about adaptive management but I think, I think the Reef 2050 Plan is is a big step forward for us, it’s a big leap forward to bring all of our current management as well as new management actions under the one plan. and this includes not only what GBRMPA [Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority] s doing but what the state government is doing, what industry is doing, communities are doing. They’re all part and parcel of this plan. All brought together. It’s a major step forward. The Reef 2050 Plan itself is certainly not perfect. But again, that’s part of adaptive management, as well. We will improve it as we move forward. There is a midterm review of it in 2018 to deal more with the objectives and targets, and making them most more specific. DRIML: We’ve learned that conditions needed
for long term success of tourism in protected areas include: Having a good understanding of the natural
environment and ecosystems Funding for good planning and monitoring Time and effort dedicated by tourism operators The ability and will by governments and industry
to counter or adapt to any environmental threats And acceptance by tourists that the privilege
of enjoying these environments brings the responsibility to act appropriately and perhaps
contribute to the cost of good planning and management So, we can see that tourism and protection
of significant natural environments can coexist provided there is effective planning and management. This brings economic benefits, enjoyment by
visitors and understanding and support for conservation.

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